West Florida Tech Takes On Pace At Blue Wahoos Stadium

First of three high school games at Blue Wahoos Stadium takes place Tuesday

By Bill Vilona, Senior Writer / Pensacola Blue Wahoos | March 11, 2019 10:50 PM

West Florida High's baseball team has already played six games, but the next one has been circled for months.

The Jaguars (4-1-1) are getting their first chance in school history to play at Blue Wahoos Stadium when facing unbeaten Pace (4-0) on Tuesday.

A big game is now even grander.

"The kids are just beside themselves right now. When I first told them about it before the season, they went crazy," said long-time Jaguars coach Marc Conti, whose team (4-1-1) is off to a fast start as reigning District 1-6A champions.

The West Florida-Pace game at 4 p.m. Tuesday is part of the Battle on the Bay series of games at Blue Wahoos Stadium. The Patriots enter as defending state runner-ups in Class 7A.

Pensacola Catholic (3-1) will face Gulf Breeze (2-0) at 7 p.m. as part of a showcase doubleheader of this area's perennially successful prep baseball programs.

On March 18, Escambia High (3-1), which is off to a strong start, will play Milton (1-3) in a 7 p.m. game. The games will also be available on a live stream produced by Blab-TV.

The Battle on the Bay has been annual occurrence since 2012, but this is the first time three high school games in March have been staged at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

It's also a chance to show off a couple new concession storefronts. The Blue Wahoos gameday staff will work the games as rehearsal of sorts before the 2019 season begins April 10 for the new Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

"One of the biggest things for our players is the chance to play on that kind of field, that kind of stadium," Conti said. "If you are fortunate to make it to the state finals, you're playing on a minor league ballpark."

The Twins' spring training home, Hammond Stadium at the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers, has hosted Florida's prep baseball state tournament since 2017.

When Conti learned a year ago that March 12 was available for a game, he jumped at the opportunity. It just so happened West Florida High was scheduled to play Pace that day.

A quick phone call to Pace coach Jason McBride sealed the deal.

"They (Blue Wahoos) said 'Y'all can play the early game (Tuesday) if you like' and I said, yeah we want to do that." Conti said.

"So I called Jason and told him about it and said, how would like to play at Wahoos Stadium? He said that would be great, so here we are."

Beyond the baseball game, Conti is thrilled for his players to compete in a stadium that is renowned throughout the baseball world for its fan experience and waterfront location on Pensacola Bay.

"They will be able to see the clubhouse, hit in the batting cages, and have the experience of playing on a field that is in their hometown," Conti said. "And to be able to say one day, 'I did that. I played a game on that field.' Some kids never get a chance to play on a professional baseball field."

Among the memories, the stadium's video board will be used to have photos of each player and "walkup music" before a player gets to the batter's box.

"To me, that is one of the biggest advantages of playing there," Conti said. "For the kids to be out there and have their picture put up on a big screen. That is big time, right there. They will like that."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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